Behavioral or situational questions allow an employer to solicit information about your past performance that they can compare to the specific skills needed to perform the job. Areas that could be covered are decision making, organization, commitment, planning, creativity, communication, assertiveness, teamwork, and leadership.
The best way to answer behavioral questions is to prepare using specific examples or stories or accomplishments from your past experiences - of times when you actually had to deal with similar situations or problems. Put some thought into this process ahead of time so you have plenty of real life examples to choose from.
One successful approach to use when practicing and answering behavioral based questions is to think of the acronym STAR. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Use this to briefly describe the situation and/or task from your past, demonstrate the specific action (s) you took, and then follow-up with the result or outcome.
Q: Give me an example of a time you set a goal and were able to achieve it.
A: Sample STAR answer:
Situation/Task — One of my professors announced a nation-wide student contest sponsored by ALA. SJSU iSchool was one of many schools eligible to submit entries.
Action — I took the initiative to lead our six person group and used my organizational skills to schedule a series of meetings via on-line conferencing. I facilitated our initial meeting to gather input from the team in order to determine and finalize our team's goal and strategy. I set due dates for work that needed to be done and delegated responsibilities to my team members.
Result/Outcome — Our group's project was chosen from other campus entries to continue in the competition and won the regional competition. One of the judges said ours was the most organized team in the competition.
Sample Behavioral Questions
- Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stress at work or in a class that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
- Give an example of a time when you could not participate in a discussion or could not finish a task because you did not have enough information. How did you handle it?
- Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in making a decision.
- Tell me about a time when you used your verbal communication skills in order to get a point across that was important to you.
- Tell me about a job or class experience where you had to speak up and tell other people what you thought or felt.
- Give me an example of when you felt you were able to motivate your co-workers or subordinates.
- Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to gain information needed to solve a problem; then tell me how you analyzed the information and came to a decision.
- Describe the most significant written document, report, or presentation you've completed.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
- Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.
- Describe a situation in the past year in which you had to deal with a very upset customer, co-worker or classmate. How did you handle the situation?
- Give me an example of how you have demonstrated teamwork in the work place?